A dog shock collar can be a very useful training tool to help break dogs of bad habits or keep them within the safe boundaries of your property line, but they are not without their controversy. Some dog owners just can't bring themselves to use something that is designed to cause pain, however minor it may be, and are hesitant to give these collars a try.
While shock collars, either as an individual unit or in conjunction with an "invisible fence," have been around since the 1960's when they were first used to train hunting dogs, they have evolved over time and are considered much less harmful today. Most collars come with a range of features that allow you to personalize training and adjust the level of shock administered.
They have also become much more affordable over time. Today, you can buy a good dog shock collar for anywhere from $25 to $200 and in most cases, you'll find that the collars include a series of levels of shock, which can be set as low as "a mild tickling sensation," and include vibration or beep modes. The vibrate or beep function can be used on its own or as a warning before a shock is administered. This can actually make it even easier to train your dogs as they associate the sound with the shock, but preferably, with just the sound/vibration and no shock at all.
The collars work by administering a small shock/vibration/beep any time a dog exhibits an unwanted behavior. This can range from barking excessively, in which case the collar responds to vibrations in the dog's vocal chords, to jumping on guests or chasing the mailman, where you can use a remote to administer the shock. When used with an electronic dog fence the collar works off of a wireless signal sent from sensors buried in the ground.
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Don't risk harming your dog and your relationship with them by using shocks when vibration or beep signals will get the job done for your training needs.
It depends. Not even the Humane Society condemns their use outright. According to their site the "electric signal can range from a mild tickling sensation to a painful shock."
"There is a greater chance for abuse (delivery of shocks as punishment) or misuse (poor timing of shocks)."
It can be particularly useful as you train your dog to engage in activities where he will have to be off leash. As with the electronic dog fence, this is for the dog's own safety, which should help to make the decision to use a shock collar easier. However, using such a collar should never be taken lightly—especially if using any of the shock settings rather than the vibration or beep mode.
Of course, there are pros and cons to using these collars, as with any training method. On the plus side, as mentioned above, you can adjust the intensity of the shock so that you aren't causing pain. Try the collar on yoursef. If it hurts you it will hurt your dog. Some models allow you to set it to vibrate or to make a beep. In most cases, dogs seem to catch on rather quickly, so training doesn't take very long. Also, since you don't have to be present for the collars to work this can help with curbing your dog's barking and disturbing the neighbors while you're away.
On the other side of the equation is, obviously, the shock itself, which can be unpleasant and is considered by some to be abusive. Also, if a dog shock collar isn't used properly, it can actually cause the dog to become fearful or confused, neither of which is desirable. Fear in dogs can be particularly dangerous as it can result in aggressive response, so you need to be very careful about how you use the collar to avoid this.
Collars like the PetTech Remote Controlled Dog Training Collar available on Amazon (left) have light, beep, vibrate, and shock modes. Using the vibration mode should be more than sufficient to help train your dog.
In the wrong hands a shock collar can do more harm than good. They should only be used by someone who knows what they are doing. I would rather see people consulting a professional dog trainer to find alternative positive training methods than using a dog shock collar in an abusive and detrimental manner.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that when it comes to training nothing can take the place of positive reinforcement. You want to reward positive behavior so your dog understands the difference and can make the necessary adjustment. The ultimate goal of any training is always a well-adjusted dog and there is no reason why a shock collar can't be a part of that training provided it is used correctly. That generally means not using the shock mode and using varying levels of vibration instead as shocks are not appropriate for a positive dog training program.
Situations requiring the use of the shock mode are relatively rare and the use of even mild shocks should only be undertaken in consultation with a professional dog trainer if at all. Other positive dog training techniques like those employed by professional dog trainers like "Doggy Dan," should always be your first option.